What are your rights as a renter?

Wednesday, September 06, 2017 10:03PM
Apartments flooded in Kingwood in this photo taken Sept. 3, 2017.AP
You've had questions about what you can and can't do with your flooded apartment or rented house. So we got an expert to help answer your questions.

WATCH THE FULL HOUR-LONG Q&A SESSION

Don't see your answer here? Call the Houston Apartment Association at 713-595-0300 for free help.

You should keep in mind these answers are general and do not apply to every specific situation. These answers are not intended to provide legal advice, so make sure if your situation involves interpreting or making decisions on a legal basis (like what you can and can't do with your specific lease) you'll want to seek the advice of someone who can look at your specific situation.

Can my landlord break my lease?
A: Yes, if the premises are "totally uninhabitable for residential purposes," either party can break the lease. So what qualifies as "totally uninhabitable?" That gets tricky. If the resident can live inside the unit while repairs are ongoing, then the unit is likely still habitable.

Can I break my lease?
A: If you believe your apartment is uninhabitable, then you can break your lease by giving written notice to your apartment complex, stating as much. Again, the definition of "totally uninhabitable" is not definite. If you're without power because the power company is still working to restore it, then that likely won't qualify.
My landlord and I don't agree on breaking my lease.

A: Unfortunately, if you want to terminate your lease because you believe your apartment is uninhabitable, but your landlord disagrees, you can still notify them in writing you are terminating the lease and move out, but you could end up in court for breach of contract. This is a situation you'll want to consult a professional for advice on.

Rent: are there any circumstances where the landlord has to give me a break on paying the rent?
A: Not really, unless you or the landlord breaks the lease. If you or the landlord terminate the lease and you move out, you are only responsible for the rent up to the date of termination. Unfortunately, even if your apartment flooded, you lost your job or car or had any other flooding-related situation, if your lease is not terminated, the landlord can still demand full payment for rent, assess late fees and/or evict you for non-payment.

If part of your apartment is unusable, you have the right to have your rent pro-rated, proportional to the amount of the property that is unusable. But only if a court authorizes it.

My landlord won't fix my problem. What do I do?
A: Here's what the Texas Attorney General says: "If the landlord won't make repairs needed to protect your health, safety, or security, and you follow the procedures required by law, you may be entitled to:

End the lease;
Have the problem repaired and deduct the cost of the repair from the rent; or
File suit to force the landlord to make the repairs."

You can find more on the AG's website.

Watch the video for more answers about renter's rights.

Do you have a story tip, idea or question for Ted Oberg Investigates? Let us know, at abc13.com/tedstips

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